Great Gardeners: Wisdom & Ideas from the Best of the Best


As we plan our gardens this year, we’re drawing inspiration from the men and women whose ideas have shaped gardening history. Be the best gardener you can be by learning from history’s great gardeners, and incorporating their time-tested wisdom into your own garden!

We’ll feature 25 gardeners throughout the month of March; their story, their accomplishments and easy ways to follow in their footsteps! Stay tuned for more entries!


25. Graham Stuart Thomas



Graham Stuart Thomas (1909–2003) was an English nurseryman, designer, consultant, and author. He served as gardens advisor to the National Trust and wrote many outstanding reference works including Perennial Garden Plants (1976) and Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers, and Bamboos (1992).

Thomas is best remembered for his work as a rosarian. He collected and promoted old roses that had been neglected after the rise of highly-colored modern varieties. He argued that these older roses were not inferior, they had a delicate and subtle beauty all their own. 

Fun Fact

While Thomas was working at the renowned Hillings nursery at Surrey, he met the legendary garden designer  Gertrude Jekyll. She became a mentor figure for Thomas and passed on her knowledge of color theory and herbaceous perennials to him.

Garden Like thomas

Garden like Thomas by taking a more subtle approach to garden design. Study the history of the roses in your garden and consider using older varieties in your rose beds!

23 – 24. Nathaniel Britton (1869–1934) and Elizabeth Britton (1858–1934)

Nathaniel Lord Britton (1869–1934) and Elizabeth Gertrude Britton (1858–1934)  were an American husband-and-wife team who pioneered the creation of the New York Botanical Gardens.

22. Jens Jensen (1860–1951)

Jens Jensen (1860–1951) Danish-born landscape designer; practiced primarily in the American Midwest; known for his naturalistic “prairie style,” his advocacy of conservation, and enthusiasm for native plants.

21. Thomas Dolliver Church (1902–78)

Thomas Church (1902–78) American landscape architect; noted for his promotion of modern, labor-saving gardens and “outdoor living;” active primarily in California: author of Gardens Are for People (1955).

20. Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869–1950)

Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869–1950) American garden designer; noted for her expert handling of herbaceous plants and ability to orchestrate color; extant work includes the restored English Garden at Stan Hywet Hall, Akron, Ohio.

19. Rosemary Verey (1918–2001)

Rosemary Verey (1918–2001) English garden designer and author; created the garden at Barnsley House in Gloucestershire; books include Classic Garden Design (1984) and Good Planting (1990).

18. J. C. Raulston (1940–96)

J. C. Raulston (1940–96) American plants-man and educator; founder of the arboretum at North Carolina State University that now bears his name; tireless promoter of superior garden plants; co-author (with Kim Tripp) of A Year in Trees (1995).

17. Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962)

Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962) English gardener and writer; creator (with her husband, Harold Nicolson) of the garden at Sissinghurst in Kent; fringe figure in the Bloomsbury group thanks to her relationship with Virginia Woolf.

16. Mien Ruys (1904–99)

Mien Ruys (1904–99) Dutch landscape architect and landscape designer; an advocate of “functionalism,” noted for her use of architectural perennials and her talent for creating small gardens; a strong influence on today’s Dutch designers.

15. Fletcher Steele (1885–1971)

Fletcher Steele (1885–1971) American garden designer; formed a link between the Beaux Arts tradition and more modern ideas; extant work includes Naumkeag, in Massachusetts, with its famous birch-lined Blue Steps.

14. Elizabeth Lawrence (1904–85)

Elizabeth Lawrence (1904–85) American gardener and writer; gardened in Raleigh and Charlotte. North Carolina; author of the classic A Southern Garden (1942).

13. Lawrence Johnston (1871–1958)

Lawrence Johnston (1871–1958) Expatriate American gardener and plant collector; creator of the garden at Hidcote Manor, Gloucestershire, considered to be one of the best examples of garden “rooms.”

12. William Robinson (1838–1935)

William Robinson (1838–1935) Irish-born gardener, author, publisher, and polemicist; led the assault against Victorian carpet bedding; gardened at Gravetye Manor in Sussex; books include The Wild Garden (1870) and The English Flower Garden (1883).

11. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903)

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) American landscape architect; designer of Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” of parks and co-creator, with Calvert Vaux, of Central Park in New York City.

10. Margery Fish (1892–1969)

Margery Fish (1892–1969) English gardener and writer; popularized a style reminiscent of traditional cottage gardens; gardened at East Lambrook Manor in Somerset; author of We Made a Garden (1956).

9. Louise Beebe Wilder (1878–1938)

Louise Beebe Wilder (1878–1938) American gardener and author; the best early 20th-century American garden writer; gardened in Bronxville and Pomona, New York; books include Colour in My Garden (1918), The Fragrant Path(1932), and Adventures with Hardy Bulbs (1936).

Louise Beebe Wilder Interview – Horticulture, Feb. 1935

8. Russell Page (1906–85)

Russell Page (1906–85) English garden designer; known for his meticulously crafted, often formal gardens, created mostly for wealthy private clients; author of the classic The Education of A Gardener (1962).

7. Beatrix Farrand (1872–1959)

Beatrix Farrand (1872–1959) American landscape architect; a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects; projects included Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., and the Yale and Princeton University campuses; published the Reef Point Bulletins from her home garden in Bar Harbor, Maine.

6. André Le Nôtre (1613 – 1700)

Andre Le Notre (1613–1700) French landscape architect; designer of the grounds at Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles; associated with highly formal chateau gardens carried out on a grand scale.

5. Gertrude Jekyll (1843–1932)

Gertrude Jekyll (1843–1932) English garden designer and author; high priestess of the Edwardian herbaceous border; frequent collaborator with the architect Edwin Lutyens and with William Robinson (q.v.); gardened at Munstead Wood in Surrey; books include Wood and Garden (1899) and Colour in the Flower Garden (1908); pronounced JEE-kul.

4. Lancelot “Capability” Brown (1715–83)

Lancelot “Capability” Brown (1715–83) English landscape gardener; one of the most influential promoters of the pastoral English landscape movement; responsible for at least 170 estate gardens, including the grounds at Stowe in Buckinghamshire.

3. Roberto Burle Marx (1909–94)

Roberto Burle Marx (1909–94) Brazilian landscape and garden designer known for his bold, abstract patterns and creative use of native flora; also an ardent conservationist.

2. Karl Foerster (1874–1970)

Karl Foerster (1874–1970) German nurseryman, plant breeder, and author; advocated a “natural” style of planting incorporating grasses and ferns along with flowering perennials; known especially for his hybrid delphiniums.

1. Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858–1954)

Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858–1954) American botanist, horticulturist, and educator; spent much of his working life at Cornell University; author of more than 60 books, including the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture and Hortus Third.

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